Passion, Murder, and the New World Order in 'Compulsion'

As this cautionary tale winds down, our central character enjoys the privilege of the overclass; she doesn’t pay for her crimes -- others pay.


Director: Sarah Harding
Cast: Parminder Nagra, Ray Winstone
Distributor: BFS
Rated: Not Rated
Year: 2010
Release date: 2010-10-28

Set in modern day Britain, Compulsion is loosely based on the Jacobean tragedy ‘The Changeling’. Directed by Sarah Harding, the film cleverly recasts this renaissance tale of love and betrayal within the new social order of the global economy.

A wealthy Indian couple arranges the marriage of their daughter Anjika (Parminder Nagra). Anjika’s father has carefully selected a groom—Hardick, a young Indian accountant. Anjika rebels against the arranged marriage. She’s a modern young woman with western values; she already has a lover -- her white boyfriend Alex, a penniless college student.

The family’s chauffer, the white, middle-aged Flowers (Ray Winstone) is secretly in love with Anjika. When she leaves her evening gloves in the drawing room, Flowers steals them as a precious keepsake. After work, he picks up an Indian prostitute and makes her wear the gloves. His unrequited love borders on obsession.

Traditional racial and class barriers are reversed. The Indians are the new overclass; British whites either work for them (Flowers) or aspire to marry into their family (Alex).

We soon learn that Flowers is more than just a mere chauffer -- he’s the keeper of the family secrets. He drives Anjika’s father to a rendezvous with his mistress; he scores drugs for Anjika’s brother. Flowers is a street-smart operator who knows how to keep his mouth shut. He’s a fixer. His eye, however, is set on Anjika, who despises him.

These interlocking characters with conflicting ambitions drive the plot forward. Class resentment lurks just below the surface, as in this scene between Anjika and Alex:

Alex: Let’s run away together, where your father can’t find us.

Anjika: Don’t be stupid. We can’t run away.

Alex: You don’t want to leave your gilded cage. You’re afraid you’ll have to slum with me.

Anjika: Do you really think I’m a spoiled bitch? Or are you just afraid you won’t make it.

Alex: Of course I’m afraid I won’t make it. That’s what life is like in the real world.

The center of this drama is the tempestuous relationship between Anjika and Flowers. Nagra’s Anjika is ravishing; her poise and aristocratic bearing is perfect for the role. Winstone plays Flowers with working class gravitas, a man of calculating intelligence who can read people and understand their needs and desires.

Flowers recognizes Anjika’s rebellion as an opportunity. He drives her to Alex’s flat, in defiance of her father’s orders.

Flowers: I’ll take you to wherever you want to go, you can trust me.

Anjika: I wish I were a man.

Flowers: You just need someone to be a man for you. Tell me what you want.

The two make a deal: Flowers promises to make Hardick ‘go away’. In exchange, Anjika agrees to spend the night with Flowers. This Faustian bargain has unintended repercussions for all involved.

Anjika’s night with Flowers is transformative. She’s a sheltered college girl; he’s rough trade. Their tryst occurs off-camera; we see her reluctantly entering Flower’s hotel room, and Harding smartly cuts to the following morning. As Anjika leaves, Flowers modestly thanks her.

The next time Anjika has sex with Alex, she’s troubled and distracted. She tries to coach him, “Slower,” she says. She’s now in possession of carnal knowledge that she cannot share with Alex. In a shocking turnabout, Anjika begs Flowers to take her to bed again.

Anjika’s torrid, illicit affair with Flowers cuts across every social barrier: race, class, and age. Keeping their affair secret leads to murder, and Anjika realizes that she’s morally compromised. “What have you done to me?” she asks Flowers. “You’ve changed me.”

Anjika’s motives are a complete rejection of her wealthy, controlling father: When he chooses her husband; she has the prospective groom murdered. When a second marriage is arranged, this time with Alex, Anjika takes Flowers as a lover. For women who live under patriarchal control, sex is the only lever of power. Anjika uses sex to rebel against the patriarchy of her world. By giving herself to Flowers, she finds an outlaw willing to do her bidding.

Yet Anjika cannot overcome the boundaries of her life. She must submit to a rigid social order, which means she must eventually destroy Flowers. He knows too much; Flowers is a loose end that must be cut. As this cautionary tale winds down, Anjika enjoys the privilege of the overclass; she doesn’t pay for her crimes -- others pay.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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